When this idea first hatched, I had been promoting Google My Maps to students and teachers at Bishop Belleau School in Moosonee, Ontario and St. Patrick School in Kapuskasing, Ontario. This app allows students to actually create their own maps for virtually any purpose, and before we played with the app, we started our learning with a question: “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” And it’s funny…you would think that kids would immediately want to navigate to places they may have seen in movies, or have discussed in class, or read about in books. No, the place they most wanted to see is…
Kids want to see their house, the park they play in down the street, their schools – these are the special places in their beloved communities they want to see on this map and show off to visitors (in this case, me).
The thing is, when I showed them how to use Pegman within Street View, they soon realized that they couldn’t drop him anywhere. They asked why he kept jumping back, why they couldn’t see their house, their street, or anywhere in their entire community?
I explained that in order for Pegman to be able to show them these places, he would need to know where to look – the photographers who take these pictures and upload to Google Maps have not yet been to these smaller communities in Northeastern Ontario, therefore Pegman simply can’t see places where pictures have not been taken.
They understood, and one student even said that he would like to become a Google photographer.
I showed them the Street View app, where anyone can take photospheres with an iOS or Android phone (360′ images of a place) to give them an idea of what this type of photography entailed. To upload and publish to Street View, images must adhere to specific quality criteria outlined by Google.
So I began to think: why couldn’t students capture their communities so that they can be represented on Google Maps and Street View like other places in the world?
Fast forward to later in the school year, where a group of high school students created a presentation about the suicide crisis in the Attawapiskat First Nation, Ontario. Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency after 11 people tried to commit suicide in one day. Since last September, over 100 people in the community of 2,000 have attempted suicide. These students bravely stood in front of their school and spoke passionately about their own experiences grappling with issues they have faced, and how they came to overcome these obstacles. The underlying message was one of hope for a brighter future, and to never give up. They wanted to tell their stories, and I wanted to help.
Walk With Us: Affirming the Voices of First Nations Students Through Digital Storytelling
Our project involves using an overlay program called WalkInto, 360′ cameras (Ricoh Theta S) and Google Street View to provide a groundbreaking forum for youth to share stories of their upbringing, culture, and traditions, and to discuss the issues that affect them. We hope to increase awareness of some of the challenges First Nations communities are currently facing, and foster hope in the connections we create in order to spread positive messaging and resilience. This project will teach skills that actively prepare learners for the 21st century, one of our board’s improvement planning priorities, including (but not limited to): critical thinking, communicating ideas, understanding media, working with various technologies, and collaborating in teams. Virtual tours will be submitted to A Kids’ Guide to Canada, a nation-wide project to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
Professional learning goals we plan to achieve through our project:
- Learning and applying digital media skills to transfer to students (spherical imaging, WalkInto overlay program, producing various media works including audio and video recordings)
- Collaborating with colleagues, community partners and project partners from around the world via video conferencing
- Increasing awareness of the challenges faced by Aboriginal youth in remote northern Ontario communities
- Empowering Aboriginal youth with a global platform to share their stories and relay positive messages to other youth
- Finding creative ways to deliver the Ontario English curriculum and align it with the Aboriginal perspective with a particular focus on media skills and oral communication
We have amazing partners to help facilitate certain aspects of our project. The co-founders of WalkInto will be planning a Google Hangout (GHO) with the students to teach them how to use the tools to build virtual tours. In addition, they will provide server resources to host the project and WalkInto credits to cover operational costs. A photographer, Neil Cariani from CreativeXistence360, has agreed to facilitate a GHO about spherical imaging and teach students how to operate the Ricoh Theta S camera, and will also lend his expertise with post-processing (Photoshop). These skills will align with the media strand of the English curriculum. These sessions will be held during lunch hours, and we hope to invite community partners from our Native Friendship Centre and Misiway Milopemahtesewin Community Health Centre, Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre, as well as elders, to talk about storytelling and traditional healing. We will provide the students with a private, online forum (Google Plus community) so that they can communicate with team members throughout the project and share their thoughts as we learn together. Students will also study exemplars of various non-fiction narratives about overcoming adversity to guide them in their own journeys of hope.
This project will provide a space for First Nations youth to share their stories and thereby build their self-confidence and well-being. It will enhance their understanding of a variety of technological tools, which aligns with the 6 C’s of 21C teaching (thinking critically, communicating clearly, working collaboratively, embracing culture, developing creativity, and utilizing connectivity). We hope that students will be engaged in their learning, as they will have a stake in the project, as it is comprised of their personal stories. They will also have the opportunity to reach beyond their community and form real connections with youth, educators/mentors and global partners through the use of technology.
These are some of the resources we plan to use for this project (this can be an ongoing list):
- Ricoh Theta S cameras (2) and tripods; smartphones and/or iPads to control the camera’s movements on the tripod
- WalkInto platform (virtual tour building overlay software) and Google Street View (publish our photospheres to Street View)
- Google Hangouts for training sessions with our technology partners, as well as for our community partners
- Timmins Native Friendship Centre, Misiway Milopemahtesewin Community Health Centre, Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre, and elders
- Walking the Path, Ontario curriculum and Aboriginal Perspectives Toolkit documents
This project serves a dual purpose:
- To provide students with the opportunity to quite literally put their communities on the map; and
- To provide students with the opportunity to build digital artefacts to contribute to a national project, where their stories will be seen and heard by many, far and wide
I can’t wait to see what they can do.
The digital Human Library is a proud sponsor of A Kids’ Guide to Canada, and you can read more about this amazing project by kids, for kids here.